Duval County

Celebration Church releases investigation into founding pastor accused of fraud

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Celebration Church of Jacksonville released a report on Sunday about the investigation into the questionable financial practices of former pastor and founder Stovall Weems and his wife Kerri Weems.

The church board of trustees authorized an investigation into allegations against the Weems’ in January 2022. Stovall and Kerri were suspended from the church and later Stovall resigned.

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The investigation included an analysis of thousands of pages of documents and over 20 interviews with current and former church members, referred to as witnesses in the report.

The report states Stovall was frequently described as a narcissist by witnesses. They say he belittled and humiliated them and both Stovall and Kerri demanded others to serve them.

The report goes on to say that Stovall had frequent unfinished “big ideas” and when employees presented issues with the plans he would remove them from the decision-making process, calling them “dream killers.”

Stovall and Kerri also lived a lavish lifestyle, according to the report. This includes taking private charter flights to exotic vacations and having private assistants for every demand, which accounted for 10% of the church’s total revenue, the report says.

In February 2021, Weems Group, managed by Stovall, purchased a home for $855,000. Four months later, The Weems Group sold it to the church for $1,286,863.30 which is 50% more than the Weems Group had paid.

This increased the church’s debt by $1,300,000, according to the report.

In April 2021 the church was approved for a PPP Loan in the amount of $1,106,400 for permitted expenditures such as maintaining payroll.

The report states that Stovall made the decision to transfer the funds to the account of Honey Lake Farms, one of the entities he owned, as well as the church’s Missions account. In addition, he directed $500,000 of the PPP loan to be invested into TurnCoin.

None of these decisions were permitted expenditures, the report confirmed. The church’s debt was increased by more than $1 million as a result.

The church accused Stovall of fraudulent mischaracterization and cancellation of Honey Lake Farms’ debt. In August 2021, Stovall sought out a loan from the First Citizens Bank on behalf of Honey Lake Farms.

In order to increase the likelihood of the loan’s approval, Stovall manipulated Honey Lake Farms’ financial statements and directed accountants to write off the church’s debt. This was done without authorization from the board, the report states.

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There was also alleged misappropriation of church funds under the Weems’ leadership. AWKNG, one of the entities that Stovall owned, received $29,486.75 in church donations designated for mission trips.

After AWKNG shut down it refused to transfer the funds to the church.

Stovall also directed the church to switch from PNC Bank to First Citizens Bank without regard to possible consequences. The move resulted in a decrease in the church’s credit card limit and later the church’s credit line was revoked, leaving the church to rely on cash-only.

The report says Weems owes nearly $3.4 million dollars in misappropriated funds. Weems filed a lawsuit against the church earlier this year. In it, he claimed financial misconduct by a member of the church’s board of trustees.

Action News Jax has reached out to Stovall Weems for a statement and we are waiting to hear back.

Read the full report of the investigation of Celebration Church of Jacksonville below:

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